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Alberta government report confirms outstanding pipeline safety

Number of incidents per 1,000 kilometres has decreased dramatically since 2009

Each year, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) publishes its assessment of pipeline safety performance across the province. The report tracks incidents for those pipelines registered in Alberta and regulated by the AER (some large transmission pipelines, which cross provincial or international boundaries, are regulated by the National Energy Board).

The report examines pipeline incidents across the industry through a rolling 10-year period (with a focus on the most recent year – in this case, 2018) and summarizes incident ratios (incidents per 1,000 kilometers), which in turn reveals trends and helps identify potential areas for improvement. The report classifies incidents as high, medium or low consequence, depending on impact to the public, wildlife and the environment, as well as location and volume released.

The report on 2018 pipeline incidents was released early in July 2019, and the results confirm the oil and natural gas sector’s commitment to pipeline performance:

The number of pipeline incidents in Alberta remained consistent at 416 incidents compared with 415 incidents in 2017.

The total number of incidents in 2018 was 32 per cent lower than in 2009 — even while the total length of pipelines grew by 15 per cent over the same period. The pipeline failure rate was at 0.96 incidents per 1,000 km of pipeline per year in 2018 compared with 1.62 in 2009.

About 86 per cent of incidents were rated as low consequence, while eight per cent were rated as medium consequence, and six per cent were high consequence. Ninety-two per cent of high-consequence incidents involved pipelines carrying salt water or oil-well effluent, which is a mixture of oil, gas, and salt water.

The number of high-consequence incidents dropped by eight per cent, with 24 incidents in 2018, down from 26 incidents in 2017.

The total number of incidents in 2018 was 32 per cent lower than in 2009 — even while the total length of pipelines grew by 15 per cent over the same period.

Alberta Energy Regulator

Brad Herald, vice-president, Western Canada Operations with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), noted, “The report clearly shows that pipeline performance and safety continue to improve consistently as a result of effective regulations and industry operating practices. CAPP and its member companies have developed best management practices that address internal corrosion, one of the main contributing factors to pipeline incidents, and we continue to work with the regulator and government to learn from events to develop best prevention mechanisms and practices.”

An online version of the AER report is available here.